Safeguarding renewables against social backlash

(META News Channel EEB, 27 Sep 2022) Events across Europe show that renewable projects can spark social resistance if carried out at the expense of the environment and without involving local communities. Circumventing nature protection and public participation will not speed up renewables’ deployment — rather, it will slow it down.

As Europe grapples with energy insecurity and the effects of the climate crisis, EU capitals are preparing to fight back with solar panels, wind farms, and heat pumps.

To pave the way for this renewable energy expansion, the European Commission has tabled a powerful legislative and financial package, called “RePowerEU“. Conceived as the EU’s answer to the fossil fuel dependency on Russia, the plan aims to mobilise €300 billion (mainly channelled from the already existing EU Recovery Fund) to unlock energy savings and boost renewables deployment. This financial injection will be backed up by a set of regulatory proposals designed to speed up and foster the energy transition.

From making rooftop solar installations mandatory on new buildings (for all public and commercial buildings by 2027 and for new residential buildings by 2029) to proposing higher energy-saving targets, the proposal involves several positive initiatives to transform Europe’s energy landscape in the right direction. Yet even a good plan can be marred by some really bad ideas — and the RePowerEU contains a few of those.

In its quest to accelerate the renewables roll-out, the European Commission has called for allowing developers to build wind and solar projects without the need for an environmental impact assessment and with no requirement to involve local communities. Besides diverting attention from the main energy transition bottlenecks (such as the lack of resources and skilled professionals in permit-granting authorities), these proposed changes will create more problems than those that already existed.

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META News Channel EEB, 27 Sep 2022: Safeguarding renewables against social backlash